A large majority of Arizonans approve of a Bush administration plan to curb the hiring of illegal immigrants, and many consider immigration their top issue as they decide on the next president, according to a Cronkite-Eight Poll released Tuesday.
Sixty-nine percent of voters surveyed statewide said they support the administration plan, which will require employers to fire workers if their Social Security numbers are found to be questionable and the discrepancy can’t be resolved within 90 days. Twenty-one percent opposed the rule and 10 percent were undecided.
Poll director Bruce Merrill, a retired Arizona State University professor, said two-thirds of Arizonans invariably will support a measure perceived as tough on illegal immigration.
“It’s a manifestation of how concerned people are about illegal immigration in Arizona,” Merrill said. “They tend to be on a much tougher position in terms of closing the border.”
Earlier this year, Gov. Janet Napolitano signed into law a measure that punishes employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. It takes effect in January.
Aldo Castaneda, director of the Phoenix Immigration Center, a nonprofit organization dealing with civil and human rights law, said Arizona’s law and Bush’s plan will hurt Arizona businesses.
"Employees are already moving out of the state," Castaneda said. "This could have a collateral impact on the economy, on society and on the market."
Gordon James, co-chairman of Wake Up Arizona!, a group of business leaders opposed to the state’s employer sanctions law, said the organization doesn’t have an official position on the federal rule but favors following the law.
“It’s the system that needs to be fixed so it works better, so people are not able to get away with stolen SSNs and genuine cases get stuck,” he said.
The statewide poll, conducted Thursday to Sunday by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Eight/KAET-TV, involved 738 registered voters. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
The Cronkite School operates Cronkite News Service.
The Survey Says:
The survey found illegal immigration a factor for many in deciding on the next president. Of those who reported feeling so strongly about an issue that it would affect their vote, 38 percent cited the war in Iraq and 26 percent cited illegal immigration.
Joe’s Immigration Hotline
On another topic related to illegal immigration, 53 percent of those surveyed said they support Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration hotline, which enables people to report suspected illegal immigrants. Thirty-five percent oppose the hotline and 12 percent had no opinion.
As for who will be the next president, the poll suggested that there continues to be no clear frontrunner among Republicans, even though the field includes U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Of the Republicans surveyed, 24 percent favored McCain. But 19 percent supported former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 18 percent former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and 17 percent former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson. Ten percent favored former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 12 percent were undecided.
Of Democrats surveyed, 28 percent supported U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, 17 percent supported U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and 17 percent supported former Vice President Al Gore, who isn’t a candidate. Thirteen percent supported former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, 9 percent supported New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and 16 percent were undecided.